Be Your Own 3 AM: An Interview with Adult Mom

We talked to Stephanie Knipe about empowering yourself when no one else will.

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Aug 14 2015, 3:04pm

Adult Mom’s debut album Momentary Lapse of Happily starts out with an energy that can only be described as exhausted. The band’s lead singer, Stephanie Knipe, is also exhausted. Not of who they are, a gender non-binary college senior, studying anthropology at SUNY Purchase, but exhausted of the road they have traveled to become the vocalist of Adult Mom. It’s a good exhausted, though, “like coming down from a long hike” describes Knipe.

Momentary Lapse of Happily wrestles with almost everything a person could wrestle with—money, love, parents, friends, finding out who you are as a person and feeling comfortable with that. Knipe navigates their genderqueerness at the same time they’re navigating getting out of a relationship or the aftermath of abuse, and the result of that is a powerful debut.

When I met up Knipe at a Brooklyn coffee shop on a muggy afternoon to chat about the album, they had just played a successful album release party at Silent Barn the night before. We talked about what an immense accomplishment the album is, what it’s like to play such intimate songs on stage for lots of strangers as someone who is genderqueer, and what it’s like learning to be your own 3 AM

Noisey: How do you feel about this album? It’s big! It’s a cool album!
Stephanie Knipe:
Thank you! I am really proud of it, I'm happy that it’s out and that people liked it. I was nervous for a bit because it’s super vulnerable and personal. All my work is personal, but this actually going to be out in the world.

How is it playing such a personal album on stage and constantly revisiting those feelings and those spaces all the time?
I’ve learned how to do it in a way that I don’t have to feel it like a wave like I usually do. I kind of dissociate when I'm playing, especially with the band. So sometimes I'm singing the words, but I'm not thinking about them like, “This is what happened.” But sometimes I do, and I’ll really feel it, and sometimes I’ll cry on stage. Like [at the record release party] it was really hard to not feel it, because it was really emotional. I felt like I was coming down from a mountain in a way.

How so?
Well, it just felt like the album is this artifact of hurt and pain and stuff and then I was like “OK, it’s going to be empowering because I can make a piece of work centered around it” and then to have it released and have to play it, it’s out and it’s physical and it’s here. It was like it was coming down from a hard hike. [Laughs]

Your record deals a lot with coming out and being genderqueer. What has it been like, playing as an artist who deals with that on their record?
It’s sort of the same as just existing in the public space and existing as a non-binary person. It’s just as exhausting because it’s sort of like a constant education process of telling people “this is who I am.” So I have to constantly be teaching people about my existence and who I am as a person. Music helps with that because I can sing about it and it’s less educational and more about identity. It’s educational in that people listen to it and they’re like, “Oh, I understand” and I don’t have to sit people down and be like “here’s my entire story.” Now I can just sing it. But it’s hard because even so, being queer and non-binary, a lot of people still don’t understand what that means even after all these songs are coming out. Some people will call Adult Mom a “girl band,” or will still be like “frontwoman” Steph Knipe.

Oh no.
It’s hard because I'm being very public about it. But it’s also, I think, very helpful for me and my process of feeling comfortable with myself.

Is it like a therapy for you?
Yeah. I’ve always felt that way about writing. The only reason I write is because I feel like I have to. I write poetry but it’s a much different outlet. Songwriting is this thing where, it is a therapy for me. Like this is coming from a place where it has to happen.

What do you want to do when you graduate, do you know yet? Do you want to keep making music?
Yeah. I mean the plan right now is I'm going to finish my degree and hopefully let my education inform my art in a way. I'm going to do this until I can’t do it, until it stops working or whatever. But I also like the balance of having music in my life and having something else to do because it makes me feel less like insecure about the art-making process. It’s really hard to just be an artist.

Can you talk a little bit about what it means to “be your own 3 AM?”
Well I can’t take credit for it, because one of my best friends who’s referenced in the song. It was my best friend Janet and my other really good friend Nina. It was late August, early September of last year and all three of us were really sad and feeling lonely. I was in and out of relationships with people who were kind of ruining my life in a way. I needed people to be there for me. I felt like romantic partners weren’t there for me and Nina and Janet were like, “You just have to be your own 3 AM.” Because when you’re lonely and you’re like, “Who do I text to relieve myself of that loneliness?” You can fulfill that for yourself or even your friends can fulfill that for you. “Be your own 3 AM” is be your own self-empowerment but, also, there are people around you who feel the same way and that will always be there for you.

How long did it take you to write and put this album together?
It’s hard to say because a lot of it I wrote a really long time ago, like two or three years ago. so I guess I would say that it took me two years to write everything because I also had other mini-EPs and demo things that I put out.

I feel so relieved at this point that it’s out. It’s here. I did the show, I toured all summer, I'm gonna take a nap for a few but then I’ll be back, crackin’ skulls.

Annalise Domenighini is her own 9 PM, and has never stayed up until 3 AM. Follow her on Twitter.